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Windows 7 Media Center Features in PDC Build 6801 of Windows 7

Microsoft distributed pre-beta Windows 7 build 6801 to PDC 2008 attendees which contains many new features the Windows Media Center team has been developing over the past year. Here’s a quick outline of some of these new features.

If you install this build do keep in mind it’s considered an ‘Alpha’ experience meaning some features may not be polished or work quite as well as they will in the final product AND things may change (mostly for the better we hope) between now and beta and RTM. So let’s jump right in…

  • New Start Menu: As you can see, the Media Center Start Menu has been redesigned, bringing in a more consistent (but not exactly the same) look and feel with the Zune UX.
  • Media Center Gadget: When you install Windows 7, you’ll notice quickly that the sidebar is no more, however gadgets are still available, and in the box you’ll find a new Media Center gadget that sits on your desktop and provides one click access to your Recorded TV, and (if available in your region) Broadband TV.
  • New Context Menus: Digging into the menus, you’ll see that it’s much easier to discover more information about the various media on your computer. Clicking the info button (or right clicking with your mouse) on a particular programme, song or photo brings up a new context-sensitive overlay with information and available actions for that item.
  • New Guide Layout: Whilst the main guide layout hasn’t changed (but scrolls a lot more quickly) the new design interface continues through to detailed guide information.
  • New Now Playing Menu: Whilst watching TV, a new Now Playing overlay helps you see what’s on, and get more information on those programmes.  
  • Music Wall: One of my favourite new features is the Music Wall – an scrolling view of all of your album artwork which displays around 15 seconds into music playback.
  • TV Pack 2008 Inclusion: As predicted, all of the goodies given to OEMs in the Windows Media Center TV Pack 2008 will be handed over to consumers in Windows 7 – new TV standards such as DVB-S for Europe, ISDB-T and QAM are all included in box. That H.264 that was postponed from Fiji? It’s in Windows 7.

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